Free college places for jobless to fight slump

HUNDREDS of unemployed people will be able to take up special "get into work" courses at colleges in the Capital thanks to new funding designed to tackle the impact of the recession.

Up to 880 students will benefit from the scheme which will allow them to enrol on one of 47 additional courses specially created to prepare people for the world of work – while also getting full bursary support.

The Evening News reported at the end of last year dozens of students were being forced to drop out of college because funding grants had dried up.

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The dramatic increase in students last year – as a result of fewer available jobs and more people looking to retrain during the recession – led to the rise in demand for bursaries, with colleges unable to pay out to every student who needed one.

Social inclusion and jobs agency Capital City Partnership has today announced it will make up to 200,000 available to all three Edinburgh colleges – Jewel and Esk, Stevenson and Telford.

Brian Lister, principal of Stevenson College and chair of the Lothian Colleges Forum, said: "The three Edinburgh colleges are working closer than ever before in an effort to ensure individuals most disadvantaged by the economic downturn can access an appropriate training programme which provides real job prospects.

"This additional funding will allow us to support more students achieve their ultimate objective – a job."

The colleges have used one-off resources awarded by the government to provide the courses in areas where employers are still hiring, despite the recession.

These include vocational subjects such as care services, construction, automotive skills, hairdressing, carpentry and plumbing.

The available places are expected to be filled mainly by young people in the 20-24 age group. However older people looking to re-train are also expected to take up the places.

Tom Buchanan, chairman of the Capital City Partnership, said: "This is fantastic news – I've said all along that Edinburgh could fight its way out of this recession.

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"We are an enormously resilient city and this kind of partnership initiative shows exactly why that is the case – our strength is in our people and how they combine their efforts so that the sum actually is greater than all of the parts."

Keith Brown, minister for skills and lifelong learning, was due to announce the new bursary scheme at Stevenson College today.

He said: "I am delighted to announce this partnership initiative between Edinburgh's colleges and the Capital City Partnership.

"In addition to helping even more unemployed people to develop the skills they need to progress, they are sowing the seeds for more collaborative working in the future which will hopefully see benefits for the people of Edinburgh in the longer term."

Greg Irving, acting principal at Telford College, said: "Naturally we are delighted to be involved in this partnership approach to help some of the city's unemployed back into full-time employment.

"Thanks to the funding, we are now in a position to offer a number of courses which will open up many opportunities for those to re-train in new professions."

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